Student Newspaper Turns 120; Futon Remains in Newsroom

Normal Echo. Tempe Normal Student. Tempe Collegian. Collegian.  And finally, The State Press. The student newspaper at Arizona State University has been published under five different names and for 120 years.

In a new self-retrospective looking back at its 12 decades in existence, writer Katie Shoultz shares a story that has a definite larger resonance with many student media outlets nationwide:

 

  • A humble beginning (The paper started on the back page of another paper.)

  • A “first draft of history” status for the school and surrounding area (As Shoultz writes, the paper is so old it literally covered stories “like President Theodore Roosevelt becoming the first U.S. president to speak at the school in 1911 and Arizona achieving statehood in 1912.” The paper later covered the school’s move from a college to a university and of course other major recent events like 9/11.)

  • A slow, steady progression toward daily, independent awesomeness (It moved away from direct oversight by the university’s j-school in the 1970s and began publishing every weekday in the mid-1980s. As the editor in charge of the latter shift mentioned, “The State Press had always been four days a week and it bothered me on Monday mornings to have no news, especially with weekend sports. So when I ran for editor I proposed a Monday edition. I figure I messed up the weekend for generations of future staffers.”)

  • A unique newsroom experience (Dirty, sans view, referred to affectionately as The Dungeon, complete with a now-historic futon)

  • A revenue and circulation boom followed by a hollowing out (Peak: 20,000 newspapers printed daily, ad sales more than $2 million. Now: 13,500 copies M-Th, 6,750 Fri.)

  • Numerous impassioned advisers whose help has been invaluable along the way (My favorite snippet of the piece is about Bruce Itule, a former mentor who offered daily critiques that became famous for their candor and their color.  As he recalled, “I used blue ink because I thought red ink would make students feel too much like they were in a class, and I never wanted staffers to think the State Press was a class project or part of the journalism program. Somewhere along the way, someone started calling it the ‘blue copy‘ and the name stuck. I was highly critical each day, but if I missed any day, people would raise hell.”)
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